Terje Bergstad (f.1938) is often described as being “an artist’s artist”; he is highly valued and esteemed by many of his colleagues, but is still little known by the broader public. This is partly due to the fact that throughout his career he has participated in very few exhibitions and been practically absent in the Norwegian art scene. Bergstad is an artist with an exceptionally close relationship between his life and work. He has had a difficult life in periods and been extremely afflicted by illness – so that periods of creativity have necessarily been replaced by long, unproductive expanses of time during which it was virtually impossible for him to work.
Bergstad began studying at the National College of Art and Design during the early 60s and at the National Academy of Art in 1965, where he studied under Reidar Aulie, among others. His teacher would come to have a great significance for him; like Aulie, Bergstad has evinced a strong social commitment in his art and he has been highly preoccupied with bringing attention to individuals who have been struck by injustice and tyranny. Whether this has been expressed in his drastic portrayals of the massacres in Soweto in 1976, where the students rebelled against the apartheid regime, or in subtle yet touching and poetic drawings of everyday people he has met throughout a long life on his way in and out of various institutions, hospitals, etc.
There are other groups of motifs and thematic cycles that have been meaningful for Bergstad, which he has returned to again and again. Without having confessed to any particular faith he has often made use of objects and symbols that have a traditional religious character; urns, candelabra, the crucifix, stained-glass windows, cathedral facades, etc. Like many other Norwegian artists before him, Bergstad has also felt a strong attraction to Telemark. His pictures from this rural county are the opposite of the sunny and vitalistic Telemark landscape as it has often been depicted in Norwegian art; here the sun and summer motifs have had to make way for the twilight hour and an often dramatic undertone of anxiety and tragedy. It is natural to see Bergstad’s Telemark pictures in connection with Harald Kihle’s and Henrik Sørensen’s gloomy and expressive depictions of the region.
The DNB Savings Bank Foundation has acquired 40 works by Terje Bergstad. Many of these pictures can be viewed at the retrospective exhibition devoted to Terje Bergstad at Henie Onstad Art Centre between February 3rd and May 1st.